SLOVAK WORD OF THE WEEK

Nárazník

IF THERE is one bumper (nárazník) you do not want to dent, it’s the one belonging to Štefan Harabin. Firstly, the supreme court boss and former justice minister knows people. Not only are the transcripts of Harabin’s alleged friendly phone conversation with Kosovar drug lord Baki Sadiki well known, he now indicates that his connections with Iranian judges played a role in the release of several Slovak hostages detained for alleged espionage.

IF THERE is one bumper (nárazník) you do not want to dent, it’s the one belonging to Štefan Harabin. Firstly, the supreme court boss and former justice minister knows people. Not only are the transcripts of Harabin’s alleged friendly phone conversation with Kosovar drug lord Baki Sadiki well known, he now indicates that his connections with Iranian judges played a role in the release of several Slovak hostages detained for alleged espionage.

Secondly, Harabin can win even the most ridiculous dispute. The latest in a long line of those who learned this lesson the hard way was the General Prosecutor’s Office, which has to pay Harabin €25,000 just for asking the Constitutional Court to let them investigate suspicions of insurance fraud related to his minor car accident in 2004.

But it’s not only Harabin who’s successful in the courts. This week, the Constitutional Court ruled that they will not strip Supreme Court judge Štefan Michálik, suspected of taking a bribe of his immunity, of his post. No explanation was provided. And there can hardly be any. The need to gain approval before investigating judges is meant to prevent possible abuse of power by the government. But there are no grounds for believing that the prosecutors were trying to harass Michálik in any way. On the contrary, it seems there is a solid case against him. But we will never learn the truth.

Since 2007 the Constitutional Court approved the prosecution of three judges, but turned down nine other requests. There has been talk of reducing judges’ immunity for years, but nothing has ever happened. Add to that everything else that has been going on in the judiciary - the hundreds of judges who filed anti-discrimination charges because their colleagues at the specialised court for combating organised crime had higher salaries; the top members of the judiciary who earned hundreds of thousands in disputes with the media; plus the systematic persecution of critics from within who try to stand up to the system.

And you will understand why it’s easy to see most judges as people who stand above the rules and twist them in their favour. Not exactly the perfect bumper against injustice, is it?

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